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Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

by Chuck Klosterman

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Sex Drugs Cocoa Puffs Chuck Klosterman
Scribner
August 2003

Until I was five years old, I didn't eat breakfast cereals. Instead I chose to start my mornings with a hot bowl of soup. All of this changed when I reached kindergarten and noticed the toys other kids found in their cereal boxes. They don't put toy prizes in soup, which to this day I still believe to be a major marketing mistake of Campbells. Imagine ladling into a big bowl of alphabet soup and pulling out a matchbox car. But from five years old on, I have been hooked on sugary cereals. Even reaching the point that my mom would pour Hershey's syrup onto my cocoa puffs because I would cry that the milk didn't become as chocolaty as the commercials claimed. So when I heard about Chuck Klosterman's new book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, I wanted to see if he shared my same passion.

Like most collections of short stories or essays, Chuck Klosterman struggles to maintain a consistent level of quality throughout the book. Perhaps as expected from the author of Fargo Rock City and a regular writer for Spin magazine, some of the best essay's focus on musical themes.
"Toby over Moby" tries to explain the popularity of modern country music and why it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. While "Appetite for Replication" follows the earnest passion of a Guns and Roses tribute band without falling into a predictable tone of cynical mockery.

Just as impressive are some of Klosterman's forays outside of the music world. "Billy Sim" examines the phenomenon of the Sims video game and the underlying consumerist philosophy inherent in the game. "George Will vs. Nick Hornby" tries to explain why soccer hasn't caught on in the U.S. as a professional sport despite the huge number of youth league conscripts. As Klosterman writes, "Every time I pull up behind a Ford Aerostar with a '#1 Soccer Mom' bumper sticker, I feel like I'm marching in the wake of the Khmer Rouge."

However, not all of Klosterman's essays are as enjoyable. "The Awe-Inspiring Beauty of Tom Cruise's Shattered, Troll-like Face" uses movies such as Vanilla Sky and The Matrix as a jumping off point for a discussion on the nature of reality. Unfortunately, it comes across like a late night, hastily written composition for a freshman philosophy class.
"What Happens When People Stop Being Polite" is an essay on MTV's Real World which may have been timely ten years ago, but at this point doesn't provide any new or interesting insights on reality television. Luckily Klosterman understands the dangers in basing his work on pop culture, explaining, "And while half of my brain worries that writing about Saved by the Bell and Memento will immediately seem as outdated as a 1983 book about Fantasy Island and Gerry Cooney, my mind's better half knows that temporality is part of the truth."

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs reminds me of a drunken night out with friends discussing the parallels between Three's Company and the bible or recounting childhood rules of kickball or other such topics that occupy the minds of the over-educated, under-challenged class. On the way home that night you feel like you and your friends are the smartest, hippest group on earth, then in the morning you realize it was just drunken, meaningless rambling. Still, you feel that it was fun while it happened.
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